Eng v SA: Kagiso Rabada can be complete South African seamer, says Shaun Pollock
By Oli Burley
Last Updated: 22/05/17 10:35am
Seamer Kagiso Rabada can take the next step in becoming the complete South African bowler on his first tour of England, says Shaun Pollock.
With talent and pace to burn, Rabada rattled England on home turf with red and white ball in the winter of 2016 and is now focused on spearheading South Africa's attack alongside Morne Morkel, with the ICC Champions Trophy and a four-Test series priority targets.
"He's been a real find for us and he has definitely matured into his role at international level," said former all-rounder Pollock of Rabada, who at the age of 21 already has 71 Test and 57 ODI wickets to his name at 23.69 and 25.29 apiece.
"If he continues to develop at the same rate in all formats he could become the complete bowler for South Africa.
"He's still very young and has so much time ahead of him - I think we tend to forget that about him - but I'm really looking forward to seeing how he goes in England, in particular with the Duke ball.
"Any fast bowler with the energy to bowl consistently at 140km/h-plus (87mph) is a useful component of any side but he's now got a little experience of playing county cricket behind him after last summer's spell at Kent so he'll have a better understanding of the conditions.
"For a young man he's already had to shoulder an awful lot of responsibility when injury has affected Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel.
"With Steyn ruled out of the tour and Kyle Abbott no longer available, it's important that Rabada does well and he, Morkel and Vernon Philander make a very decent trio."
Rabada - who has just completed his maiden IPL season after being signed by Delhi Daredevils for nearly £600,000 - was in red-hot form in the fourth Test at Centurion in January 2016 as he ran through England, taking career-best match figures of 13-144 to spur South Africa to a consolation victory - the tourists having already taken possession of the Basil D'Oliveira trophy with wins at Durban and his hometown, Johannesburg.
The right-armer's rich vein of form continued into the ODI series, finishing as leading wicket-taker for the hosts with nine wickets at 19.88 - including 3-34 in the fifth and final match as South Africa secured a series-clinching victory.
More recently, the Proteas have completed a thumping 5-0 ODI series win over Australia, as well as seeing off Sri Lanka and New Zealand to firmly cement themselves at the top of the 50-over rankings.
"The team is in a good place," reflected Pollock. "They've played some really good cricket of late without really being challenged in the last few ODI series - Australia were missing the bulk of their bowling attack, Sri Lanka struggled to compete and New Zealand were missing key components of their side.
"But they go into the Champions Trophy as number one. Playing a full-strength, balanced England side in England ahead of the tournament is ideal preparation for them as they will be able to gauge where they are and get a good feel for the conditions."
The class of 2012 appeared to have precious little trouble adapting to Test cricket in England as they ran out 2-0 victors in the three-match series to claim the mace awarded to the No 1-ranked team on the planet.
However, Pollock says last winter's 2-1 defeat - which included Ben Stokes' blistering 258 in the Cape Town Test - still rankles.
"They will look back on that series with disappointment because there were opportunities they could have taken to bring the series home," he said.
"But England is a lovely place to tour from a Test cricket perspective; everyone loves going there and the South African side is the same.
"Unfortunately missing AB for the Test series is a blow - he is a match-winner who can turn a game on its head never mind the tempo of a match - but they've performed well under the captaincy of Faf du Plessis since he's taken over and produced some good results, the best of which was going to Australia and winning.
"The team has travelled well and if they can adapt to English conditions there's no reason they can't really, really compete - and emerge on top."
Resilience will remain a key attribute. In April, South Africa cricket made uncomfortable headlines as Abbott and Rilee Rossouw followed Hardus Viljoen (Leicestershire), Stiaan van Zyl (Sussex) and Simon Harmer (Essex) by signing county deals for Hampshire and thereby removing themselves from international selection.
Pollock says the ripples from that news - in particular Abbott's departure - have nearly ebbed away.
"We've been quite exposed to quite a lot of these types of incidents in our domestic game over the years," he said.
"One thing we do have as South Africans is a wonderful ability to accept whatever transpires and look to move on. I feel that's where the team is at.
"It was a setback - you only have to see how well Kyle is doing in county cricket to appreciate that - and with injuries bound to happen, he would have been an ideal player to turn to.
"But the team has accepted it; they went and played nicely in New Zealand and now they've been strengthened by the return of Morne Morkel, so it's time to move on."
Watch South Africa's tour of England in full on Sky Sports - starting with the first ODI from 1.30pm this Wednesday on Sky Sports 2.